Susan Elizabeth “Sue” Perkins (born 22 September 1969) is an English comedian, broadcaster, actress and writer, born in East Dulwich, London. Originally coming to prominence through her comedy partnership with Mel Giedroyc as one half of Mel and Sue, she has since become best known as a radio broadcaster and TV presenter, notably of The Great British Bake Off (2010-present) and Insert Name Here (2016-present).
Perkins was being interviewed by the very stylish and doyenne of Scottish arts journalists, Jackie McGlone, who was superb at guiding the discussion and getting the best from Perkins as she discusses her latest book: East of Croydon: Blunderings through India and South East Asia which she undertook in order to push herself outside of her comfort zone.
A few years ago someone asked Perkins if she’d like to make a documentary on the Mekong River, travelling from the vast delta in Vietnam to the remote and snowy peaks of Tibet. Up until that point, the furthest East she’d been was Torremolinos on the Costa Del Sol. She’s scared of flying; by her own admission she has zero practical skills; she can’t survive if she’s more than a three-minute walk from a supermarket; for the last seven years she has suffered from crippling anxiety; she has no ability to learn languages; and she’s no good with boats. So naturally she said yes.
McGlone questions Perkins as to whether she kept a journal for the research for the book and surprisingly the answer is no. “I see the world through how it feels” and she has a great way with words and painting her experiences in pictures.
The project was not without its challenges for Perkins and it transpires, many of the crew, who became very ill during filming. This can’t have been easy for a self-confessed hypochondriac. She does, however, give some advice that when travelling the well-travelled tourist route – you have the choice to eat like the locals or eat like a tourist. So perhaps it wasn’t the wisest choice to order a milkshake when Asia is not known for dairy in its cuisine.
There was dengue fever to cope with, where she “felt sort of mad”; dealing with the humidity where “your mattress becomes like a soaked sponge”; coping with altitude sickness in the Himalayas and losing the majority of the crew to illness, and having navigated Gomukh after a very difficult climb, ended up throwing up and spending the next hour shaking and crying uncontrollably, whilst doing a piece to camera.
Perkins is a natural, likeable storyteller. Her travels made her cry with laughter but the experiences broke her heart at the same time.